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Muppet Battles Hunger -- And Not in a Cookie Monster Way

By admin Published: October 4, 2011

The official word: Growing Hope Against Hunger, a one hour primetime television special, produced by Sesame Workshop with documentary films by Academy Award winning director and filmmaker Cynthia Wade, will premiere on PBS starring Brad Paisley, Kimberly Williams Paisley and the Sesame Street Muppets airing nationwide on October 9th at 7:00 PM ET/ PT (check local listings). The special, made possible by the generous support of Walmart, presents families’ personal stories to raise awareness of the widespread issue of hunger in the United States, as well as strategies that have helped these families find resources and grow stronger together. Growing Hope Against Hunger will also introduce a new Muppet named Lily whose family has an ongoing struggle with hunger.

A preview of the special was presented today at the Bethel Gospel Academy with H. Melvin Ming, Chief Operating Officer of Sesame Workshop; Andrea Thomas, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Walmart; Vicki Escarra, President and CEO of Feeding America and Sesame Street Advisory Board Member; The Gleason family, who were featured in the special; and Sesame Street’s Grover and new Muppet Lily. In addition, a Spanish version of the special will air on October 22nd at 1 PM ET/PT on Univision and on October 23rd at 1 PM ET/PT on Telefutura. All materials will also be available online at

“Food insecurity is a growing and difficult issue for adults to discuss, much less children,” said Brad and Kimberly Paisley. “We are honored that Sesame Street, with its long history of tackling difficult issues with sensitivity, caring and warmth asked us to be a part of this important project. We hope that it will not only provide families with the tools they need to help them cope and live the healthiest life possible, but will educate the general population about the extent of food insecurity and hunger in the United States.”

Families facing food insecurity is a growing issue in the United States. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 17 million American children — nearly 1 in 4 — have limited or uncertain access to affordable and nutritious food. Of these children, more than half (9.6 million) are under the age of 6.* In response, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, with funding and partnership from United HealthCare and the Merck Foundation, launched Food for Thought: Eating Well on a Budget in Fall 2010. The multimedia and bi-lingual (English and Spanish) Food for Thought resource kits, created by Sesame Workshop with the guidance from an Advisory Board, were developed to provide free resources in support of families with young children coping with uncertain or limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

* Nord, Mark, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States, 2008. ERR-83, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Econ. Res. Serv. November 2009.

With a $1.5 million grant from Walmart, Growing Hope Against Hunger extends the Food for Thought initiative through the national television broadcast of the new primetime special, the distribution of 35,000 Food for Thought resource kits and following the premiere of the special, 15 screenings will be hosted in select Walmart communities. In May 2010, Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. through 2015 and at the premiere today in New York Walmart announced today that it will be donating 8,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to City Harvest, who will distribute it directly into the hands of hungry New Yorkers through open-air, farmer’s market-style distributions in high need communities as well as deliver it to preschool and afterschool programs serving children in need throughout the five boroughs

“At Walmart, we’re committed to fighting hunger and providing healthy, affordable food to families across the U.S.,” said Andrea Thomas, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Walmart. “We’re proud to partner with Sesame Street to help raise awareness of the issue of hunger in America and what we can do to help our neighbors.”

“Sesame Workshop has always been at the forefront of creating resources for families with young children to help address some of life’s most difficult issues.” said H. Melvin Ming, Chief Operating Officer of Sesame Workshop. “Growing Hope Against Hunger is Sesame Workshop’s contribution to all those who face the invisible crisis in the United States that is food insecurity. We are honored to have the generous support of Walmart and to work with Brad and Kim and all our supporters and especially the families who share their very personal stories so others can learn and benefit from their journeys."

The special highlights several strategies of empowerment, told through the eyes of children; viewers will meet a 7-year-old child who organizes a food drive for the pantry that helped her family; a community that arranges for struggling families to get unlimited access to healthy, fresh organic produce; a 10-year-old girl who collects food from high-end restaurants for an urban "food desert"; and a family that uses food assistance (WIC and SNAP) as the mother received culinary job training program -- a program that ultimately changes their lives. These stories mirror some of the things shown happening on Sesame Street: food drives, a community garden, and neighbors who help neighbors.

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